In an effort to draw attention to the world-wide problem of abuse of the elderly, World Elder Abuse Awareness Day was commemorated last week around the globe for the second time.
In Israel, Yad Riva copes daily with this phenomenon. Since 1984 this registered Amuta (non-profit organization) has provided free legal assistance to elderly who suffer from various forms of abuse and exploitation. Working through the legal system, they seek to empower seniors – one of the core goals of this international day.
Now at Yad Sarah, Yad Riva is supported by more than 70 volunteer lawyers throughout the country. They provide expertise in various specified fields of law to seniors, even making house calls if needed.
Attorney Mickey Schindler, director of Yad Riva, noted that abuse of elderly occurs regularly and with great intensity. It produces injuries which are physical, psychological, social and financial, causing much suffering and damaging the quality of life of the senior citizen.
Comprehensive research conducted by Haifa University's Department of Gerontology and School of Social Work recently has revealed some harsh facts. Their research indicates that 18.4% of seniors in Israel were exposed to at least one type of abuse – physical or sexual violence, verbal abuse, limitations on freedom or financial exploitation.
According to the research, the number of elderly in Israel who suffer from neglect is higher than what is known and accepted in the Western world. In addition, the level of verbal abuse and financial exploitation of the elderly is also unusually high. In light of these discouraging findings, last year Yad Riva began to strengthen its efforts in the following areas:
1. Formation of active multi-professional teams comprised of professionals from the welfare and medical fields to provide multi-disciplinary solutions to meet the needs of the elderly.
2. Consciousness raising among the elderly population of its legal rights through lectures and brochures.
3. Comprehensive legal counsel to the elderly suffering abuse and, when necessary, their representation in court by legal counsel.
Made possible through the support of the United Jewish Federation of New York, the program was implemented in each city with a Yad Riva branch. In Be'er Sheva, Afula and Bat Yam, Yad Riva works jointly with the Eshel organization. In Tel-Aviv – Jaffa the program received additional assistance from the municipality.
Elder Abuse: Stories from the Field
· Reuben* and his elderly wife, who is extremely ill, have eight grown children. In spite of his advanced age, Reuben had been appointed guardian of an adult son who suffers from schizophrenia. The son lived with his parents, even though he had threatened to kill them, had locked them out, had turned off air-conditioning during hot weather and used their money to buy cigarettes and even drugs. Yad Riva stepped in to remove the son from the home, transferring guardianship to the Foundation for Caring for the Sheltered, and obtained a permanent restraining order, forbidding the son to enter his parent's home or harass them. Together with welfare authorities, an attempt was made to enable the son to lead an independent life. It should be noted that in most instances of elder-abuse which reach Yad Riva, legal care is administered in conjunction with treatment facilities, and welfare and medical services. ·
Lillian* is a social worker whose elderly and recently widowed client Esther* received a court notice informing her that a criminal file had been opened for violations incurred when she and her late husband had owned a store. As a result, Esther owed a large sum of money in penalties, which had increased enormously over time. Esther knew nothing about this. Her husband had ignored the violations committed over the years and had never informed her. Meanwhile, in dire financial straits, Esther was being cared for by her drug-addict son and had no idea how to deal with the suit. When Lillian turned to Yad Riva for help, they approached the court and the municipality, explained the circumstances and demonstrated that due to the woman's situation, there would be no payment forthcoming. The court then decided to dismiss the case.
*names have been changed
The International Network for the Prevention for Elder Abuse (INPEA) was founded in 1997 and is dedicated to global dissemination of information as part of its commitment to world-wide prevention of elder abuse. Acknowledging the diversity of culture, background, and life style of the world population, the International Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (INPEA) aims to increase society's ability, through international collaboration, to recognize and respond to the mistreatment of older people in whatever setting it occurs, so that the latter years of life will be free from abuse, neglect and exploitation.